As the sun was about to set, I went to see Myanmar’s grandest pagoda, the Shwedagon. The pagoda is built on a wide land and visitors are required to leave their footwear outside the temple, wear proper dress code and walk barefoot around its premises. There are four entrances so it is quite easy to lose your way and forget where you left your shoes so you have to be attentive.
Being here is quite overhwelming and potentially losing your footwear is just the beginning. As soon as you arrive in Yangon (fun fact: this is not the capital city of Myanmar), the magnificence of the Paya (as it is popularly called) overpowers you with its presence, as if not taking its eye on you as you explore the city, tempting you to see it and fall in love with it. As if meant to lord the city, the Paya is built on an elevated hill so you will notice it even from a distance as you move around Yangon.
Shwedagon is more than a national symbol. Its main stupa alone is plated with nearly 22,000 solid gold bars, and estimates of the pagoda’s total gold range from 9 to 60 tonnes. Its crown is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. Many monarchies around the world have also donated gold for the pagoda. Imagine how to directly look at it when, at daytime, the sun’s rays reflect on the golden pagoda.
Legend has it that it was built more than 2600 years back and is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. The Pagoda stores significant holy relics of four previous Buddhas. The relics contain a few strands of hair of Gautama Buddha, water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and the staff of Kakusandha. This must be why the Myanmars pray at this temple and treat it with utmost respect.
Opening Hours and Best Time to Visit
The opening hours are 6 am to 10 pm. If you’re an early riser, then do visit when it’s still dark so that you can see a magnificent sunrise. The best time to visit is at 4 pm so you can enjoy it in daylight, watch the sunset and see how it glitters when the darkness descends.